U.S. attorneys office in Pennsylvania takes part in largest-ever nationwide elder fraud sweep

fraud

HARRISBURG — The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania has filed fraud charges against a Canada man as part of “the largest coordinated sweep of elder fraud cases in history,” Attorney General William P. Barr and U.S. Attorney David J. Freed announced Thursday.

The cases during the sweep involved more than 260 defendants from around the globe accused of victimizing more than two million Americans, most of whom are elderly, the announcement said.

Charged in the Middle District of Pennsylvania was Omoefe Okoro, 48, a citizen of Canada. He and others are accused of engaging in an attorney “collection scam” in Ontario, Canada, and elsewhere, according to the announcement. Okoro and his co-conspirators allegedly contacted businesses and individuals, including elderly victims, claiming they were attempting to collect outstanding debts. The suspects, posing as a third party, then sent counterfeit checks to the victim for deposit and requested the victim wire funds to overseas accounts, usually in Japan, South Korea, or China.

Okoro was surrendered to U.S. authorities last year, and is scheduled to face trial on May 6.

“Crimes against the elderly target some of the most vulnerable people in our society,” Barr said in the announcement. “But thanks to the hard work of our agents and prosecutors, as well as our state and local partners, the Department of Justice is protecting our seniors from fraud. The Trump administration has placed a renewed focus on prosecuting those who prey on the elderly, and the results of today’s sweep make that clear. Today we are announcing the largest single law enforcement action against elder fraud in American history.

“This year’s sweep involves 13 percent more criminal defendants, 28 percent more in losses, and twice the number of fraud victims as last year’s sweep. I want to thank the Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, which led this effort, together with the Department’s Criminal Division, the more than 50 U.S. Attorneys’ offices, and the state and local partners who helped to make these results possible. Together, we are bringing justice and peace of mind to America’s seniors.”

“Perpetrators of Elder Abuse and Elder Financial Fraud purposefully choose their victims, hoping that they will be unable or unwilling to ask for help, using ever more  sophisticated methods to support their scams,” said Freed. “We are proud to join our efforts today with those of our colleagues in Washington and throughout the nation, and to work with our state and local colleagues to bring federal resources to tackling this persistent problem.”

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